Romney Lie Technically True, Just Intentionally Misleading

The Weekly Standard is proud that Mitt Romney's intentionally false Jeep ad was technically true.


Via Memeorandum, I saw the headline “PolitiFact Concedes Their ‘Lie of the Year’ is the ‘Literal Truth’” at The Weekly Standard. Hoping this was just a really poorly worded headline but fearing it was not, I clicked through.

Earlier today, I wrote a lengthy critique pointing out the inconvenient fact that PolitiFact’s Lie of the Year — “The Romney campaign’s ad on Jeeps made in China” — turns out to be true. It involves a lot of complicated back and forth, so I encouage you to read that post if you’re not familiar with what’s going on. But the thrust of the matter is that the Romney campaign ran an ad saying that Jeep, the recipient of a taxpayer bailout, was going to start producing cars in China. Well, now PolitiFact has responded to my criticism, albeit obliquely, and their response leaves a lot to be desired:

Our story focused on the clear message of the Romney campaign’s ad, that jobs in the United States were being moved to China, or perhaps that Jeep was moving its entire operations to China. That is not the case and has never been the case.

Emphasis added. Now if the message of the ad was “clear,” why does PolitiFact say “perhaps” the ad meant to say “Jeep was moving its entire operations to China”? The ad, which you can watch here, never said that Jeep was moving U.S. jobs to China, let alone its entire operations to China. All the ad says, and this is correct, is that the Obama administration played a hand in selling Chrysler to “Italians who are going to build Jeeps in China.” In fact, later in PolitiFact’s response they make this concession:

The Romney campaign was crafty with its word choice, so campaign aides could claim to be speaking the literal truth, but the ad left a false impression that all Jeep production was being moved to China.

Now, I agree with the author, Mark Hemingway, that using weasel words to give a false impression about something as relatively trivial as where Chrysler is building Jeeps probably doesn’t qualify as the Lie of the Year. Hell, it probably wasn’t in the Top 10 Lies Mitt Romney Told for the year.

Politics ain’t beanbag and selective picking of facts, particularly in advertising, is part and parcel of campaigning. This is one of those cases where everybody indeed does it. But the ad in question was egregious even by political campaign standards. No jobs were being moved to China; employing Chinese workers to make Jeeps in country was a precondition of Chrysler selling Jeeps in China. (Almost certainly a violation of China’s WTO membership, by the way, but nonetheless the case.) Team Romney knew that and intentionally created the opposite impression with the ad. Indeed, the ad makes no sense interpreted any other way.

NewsBusters mounts essentially the same defense.

It’s bizarre, indeed, to see conservatives proudly tout PolitiFact’s “concession” that something that’s intentionally misleading is technically true. Offering that defense to my parents, even as a small child, served to increase the punishment. And, certainly, neither the Weekly Standard no I bought that argument when Bill Clinton offered it to excuse his lies about Monica Lewinski.

As an aside, I’m a bit perplexed as to why this is showing up in conservative circles at all at this point. The story’s more than a month old, the campaign has been over for more than two months, and the controversy over the ad itself is even older than that. This seems like a particularly bizarre hill to defend at this juncture.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Argon says:

    Well, they must find it important to keep one’s imaginary view of the world hermetically sealed against any contradictory evidence from reality.

  2. JoshB says:

    If only it wasn’t for that pesky Politifact, then Romney totally would have won. /sarc

  3. OzarkHillbilly says:

    Funny … I remember Chrysler saying exactly this away back when the ad first came out. I wonder why the GOP or Politifact didn’t know that then. Did they miss the press release? Can’t they read? Or is their reading comprehension at a 2nd grade level and it just took them this long to figure it out?

  4. Markey says:

    But Obama sold Chrysler to Italians!

    Bada Bing………………………………..


  5. bill says:

    they’re going to make jeeps in china, it’s not confusing at all. they’re not an American company anymore ether so who cares? I’m bemused that anyone actually reported on this, let alone in here.

  6. rudderpedals says:

    Rmoney never did release two tax returns he promised to so screw this.

  7. Argon says:

    Heck, I’d bet $1000 that Romney is going to take back the taxes he overpaid in his 2011 return when he was trying to show that he didn’t pay less than 13%.

  8. JohnMcC says:

    Just a little reminder that these are the people who sanctimoniously say “words have meaning”.

  9. Crusty Dem says:

    Politifact is ridiculous. The real “lie of the year” for 2012 was the distortion of “you didn’t build that” into a bizarre anti-capitalist meme.

    Remember that 2011 “lie of the year” was that the GOP was going to destroy Medicare. As if replacing it with a partial voucher system wasn’t destroying Medicare…

  10. Raoul says:

    On the campaign trail Romney was more explict (lying) on the claim.

  11. labman57 says:

    Curious that right wingers are having kittens in their efforts to defend Mittens, considering that the family members of Mr. Etch-a-Sketch now suggest that he never really wanted to become President anyway.

  12. C. Clavin says:

    This just in…ROMNEY LOST.
    Re-litigating one of the most mendacious campaigns in memory seems like a waste of bandwidth.

  13. MM says:

    Why is it showing up in conservative circles? Simple. The narrative that the media is against conservatives/in the tank for Obama.

  14. Jim Treacher says:

    It would’ve been “False But True” if Obama had said it.

  15. Let's Be Free says:

    Moral relativism – def: if we don’t like you then being 98% accurate is a 100% lie. You got to be sick to think this way..

  16. JROC says:

    I guess those shovel ready jobs were not so shovel ready, huh? I can’t believe how many jobs have been created since he stepped foot in office. I bet all those hispanics and blacks are better off now than they were four years ago after all the promises Obama made to them. I bet those guns that Obama let walk across the border (Fast & Furious – 2,000 assualt weapons) have not killed anyone yet. I bet those Americans who died in Benghazi (unfortunately some people here won’t know what I am talking about) don’t mean anything to Obama and we Americans were lied to for two weeks because Obama was afraid his lie about Al qaeda being gone would surface right before the elections so he decided to let everyone LIE about what really happened and blamed it on a video. Oh, and the most up to date information, the ecomony is sinking! But I am sure we will see the lieberal media tell everyone its not that bad and sure enough, you will believe them. Naive and such fools…don’t you hate it when you love some one so much and he fooled the crap out of you? You were tools and now his garden is complete and you may go away now. Ignorance is bliss…